Natasha Trethewey

June 1863

If this war is to be forgotten, I ask in the name of all
things sacred what shall men remember?
              —Frederick Douglass

Some names shall deck the page of history
as it is written on stone. Some will not.
Yesterday, word came of colored troops, dead
on the battlefield at Port Hudson; how
General Banks was heard to say I have
no dead there, and left them, unclaimed. Last night,
I dreamt their eyes still open — dim, clouded
as the eyes of fish washed ashore, yet fixed —
staring back at me. Still, more come today
eager to enlist. Their bodies — haggard
faces, gaunt limbs — bring news of the mainland.
Starved, they suffer like our prisoners. Dying,
they plead for what we do not have to give.
Death makes equals of us all: a fair master.